- Faith & Family
The eldest of three brothers, Pastor Joseph Toles Jr. was the only one of his father’s sons to enter the ministry. “At some point my dad actually prayed that his first born would be a preacher,” Toles recalled, with a laugh.
The senior pastor of Greater Berea Missionary Baptist Church has been leading the 47-year-old church that his father formerly pastored for nearly 20 years. Stepping into the pulpit once occupied by his father was no easy task. In addition to
transitioning to a new pastor, the church experienced a loss of membership. After Toles Sr.’s illness and eventual death, regular worshippers dwindled to a handful. Yet Toles remained steadfast.
“I don’t believe in trying to force anybody to stay and I don’t believe in trying to make people come. It’s about choice,” he explained. “I’m about doing it the way that God wants it to be done.”
The spiritual journey was slow and steady, yet fruitful. More than 50 worshippers call Greater Berea MBC home now and of those over 35 are young adults.
“It hasn’t been easy but the Lord actually showed me that once the church began to grow that it would grow through young people,” Toles said.
The church is now able to provide several popular ministries including liturgical dance, Praise and Worship and the mentoring programs – K.I.N.G.S. (which stands for Kingdom Influenced Nurtured Godly Servants) and Q.U.E.E.N.S. (Qualified Unique Elegant Empowered Nurtured Servants.)
A sheep returns to the fold
Although a faithful servant now, Toles himself went through a period of youthful rebellion. From the ages of 18 to 32, he attended church sporatically, preferring to spend his time “in the streets and the clubs” while also doing drugs. However, one Friday night while he was hanging out with another wayward friend, Toles received a spiritual wake up call.
“We were indulging in drugs and while I was there with him the Lord just had me step outside of myself and allowed me to see that if I didn’t change I would wind up homeless,” Toles said of his vision.
The very next morning, Toles called his father and expressed his change of heart. The pair had remained close over the years in spite of their difference in lifestyles.
“Quite naturally we had our clashes,” he recalled. “I was in darkness and he was in light. He would try to give me God’s perspective, but I didn’t want to hear that. But once I was on the right path our relationship healed.”
Now when people who have loved ones who are struggling with additions come to him for advice, Toles says, “You got to keep God by saying a word of prayer. But don’t look down on them. Just let them know that God loves them.”
Greater Berea Missionary Baptist Church is located at 7831 NW 15th Avenue in Miami.
By Kaila Heard